Primitivism - Flogging a centuries dead horse.

15 posts / 0 new
Last post
Nick Durie
Offline
Joined: 12-09-04
Feb 13 2005 14:24
Primitivism - Flogging a centuries dead horse.

Comrades,

I often read and hear comments along the lines of "primitivism has offered"; "... has brought" etc. which sometimes not only imply but state that there is something new to the primitivist analysis of capitalism. I find this deeply irritating, and I want to do something to counter it, if nothing else to wipe the debauched pastische of the self-proclaimed 'cool' modernism of these rampant individualist and anti-socialist dogmatists of this peculiar ideology.

There is nothing new about primitivism as an ideology, despite the claims of its adherents.

I start this thread because I want to compile a chronology of primitivist currents thought so that the next time I meet one of these people I can say AHAH...!

Anyway, the examples that spring immediately to mind are the diffusionists - James Leslie Mitchell et al; the Russian anarcho-futurists; and perhaps the gothic romanticism and guild socialism of the likes of Morris. However I'm sure there are dozens more, and better, examples, but I open this thread for contributions from more learned comrades.

Raise The Red Flag!

:red: Nick Durie :red:

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Feb 13 2005 15:26
Quote:
so that the next time I meet one of these people I can say AHAH...!

Like Alan Partridge?

Nick, I think you may have just missed out on Username who was run off before you arrived - but a search under Memberlist will find you a couple of funny threads.

I don't think Morris can be called a primitivist - he may have wanted to maintain traditional craft methods of manufacture, but primitivists would be against those as well I reckon. Even the Luddite's weren't anti-technology as such and certainly weren't anti-civilisation. Probably the closest I've seen to primitivism is the kind of thing millenarian christians were saying in the 15th century - Heresy of the Free Spirit etc. in my view they were progressive for their time - if everything is viewed through the prism of religion then in context they were very modern - no excuse to emulate them now 500 years later. And anyway, they were pre-Enlightment and pre-industrial revolution, so weren't arguing to reverse it like primmies do.

Jacques Roux's picture
Jacques Roux
Offline
Joined: 17-07-06
Feb 13 2005 15:38

Quality pamphlet from http://www.seesharppress.com

Quote:
Anarchism vs. Primitivism, by Brian Oliver Sheppard.

This important pamphlet looks closely at the fundamental conflicts between anarchism and primitivism. It traces primitivism’s basic precepts back to their authoritarian roots, reveals primitivist misconceptions about anarchism, capitalism and technology, shows how the corporate media have used primitivism to discredit anarchism, and also shows how ideology-driven primitivists, much like fundamentalist christians opposed to evolution, have picked through anthropological evidence to support their predetermined conclusions, while ignoring data that contradict those conclusions. Sheppard also considers the many primitivist straw-man attacks upon anarchism, and asks: What kind of an anarchist movement do we want — one that looks often-ugly, authoritarian social reality in the eye, with the aim of transforming it into something that will lead to freer, happier lives for all of us on planet Earth, or one that wastes its time fantasizing about a nonexistent Golden Age, and that would result in the deaths of billions if its precepts were followed?

Shame its not online anywhere!

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Feb 13 2005 15:53

Looks good RKN.

Quote:
i don't think nick means that morris or the other ones he mentioned were actually primmo's, rather that they offered critiques that the primmos claim as their own and portray as something new.

I think you're right, and that's a fair enough assertion to make. I still think it's worth pointing out the contextual basis for some of those ideas - one which means they're generally trying to change the course of current trends, not so much return to a golden age, but then I've not actually read Morris apart from snippets, so could be talking out my arse.

Nick Durie
Offline
Joined: 12-09-04
Feb 13 2005 16:31

Ay,

basically like Revol said. I see Morris as a socialist comrade, but his ideas could be interpreted as being in a more general current of similar diffusionist thought. Certainly tho writers like James Leslie Mitchell (Lewis Grassock-Gibbon, a longtime member of the CP, who believed that agriculture had been the fall of humanity and someone who felt most at home in the emergent suburbs of the early 20th century as opposed to the belching factories and tenements of town or the 'fallen', cultivated countryside of his native Aberdeenshire) were pretty much primitivists altho they weren't called that in those days. The Russian anarcho-futurists, who were part of the mass of the Russian anarchist movement that Makhno railed against for having disappeared up its own arse as the proletarian struggle intensified, believed that everything in the present society (early 20th century Russia) was bankrupt and had to be destroyed, from factories and industry to the modern family and social relations. They weren't very big on what should replace modern society (anarchism! Ehem.), but they were very clear that it should be destroyed.

I think however these are just tangential examples of thoughts that are primitivist or similar to primitivist thought, and I am sure that throughout the history of the communist movement these ideas have surfaced.

Agree about the 1500s stuff.

Solidarity,

:red: Nick Durie :red:

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Feb 13 2005 16:49

That all makes sense. Even the mention of primitivism makes me twitchy, should have read closer in the first place. Do you not think that providing primmies with historical parallels to their views might make them more confident about i? Or are you hoping they're just interested because it's "new"? If it's the latter maybe it'd work, make it look as old, boring and retread as possible then.

Lazlo_Woodbine
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Feb 13 2005 17:06
Nick Durie wrote:
I think however these are just tangential examples of thoughts that are primitivist or similar to primitivist thought, and I am sure that throughout the history of the communist movement these ideas have surfaced.

I think you're right, in that recent anarcho-primitivism is part of an older current of romantic critiques of capitalism and industrialism/modernity that have always been part of the authoritarian and libertarian socialist and communist movements.

Recent anarcho-primitivism in the form that has been imported from the USA draws mostly on the writings of Zerzan and Perlman, both of whom are part of a post-new left current influenced by situationism and ecology -- and thus cannot be seen as equivalent to earlier pre-marxist 'primiivists' even if the label was similar.

Lazlo_Woodbine
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Feb 13 2005 17:17
revol68 wrote:
their ideas and critiques (if one could call them that) have popped up time and time again, sometimes in an even more reactionary garb and sometimes in a much more nuanced and interesting way.

Don't you think that 'critiques' will vary depending on the particular historical context and theoretical tradition?

You surely aren't saying that 15th century millennarians had a situationist analysis, so what are you saying?

Lazlo_Woodbine
Offline
Joined: 26-09-03
Feb 13 2005 17:21

How did your reply appear before my post? confused

Anyway, I agree about the warmed-over nature of much of Zerzan et al' theories -- but that's not the same as saying they've got no interesting contribution. Maybe what people find interesting is the remnants of the zerowork stuff mixed with ecology. What's wrong about not reading it in the original Italian publication?

Ramona's picture
Ramona
Offline
Joined: 19-09-03
Feb 13 2005 17:42

Hmm, I don't really know much abt the ins and outs of primitvism, but I read Disourse on Inequality by Rousseau and thought "hmmm, maybe he has something interesting to say" but then i read mutual aid by kropotkin and quickly chamged my mind again red n black star wink